Monday, August 10, 2009

Berlin Couple's Yard is Wildlife Habitat

We devote much time talking about issues and policies that affect the health of natural resources – as well we should – but it’s also important to recognize those in the community who strive to make our watershed even better.

Two such people are Mike and Helen Wiley of Berlin. Mike, a retired lieutenant from the Anne Arundel Fire Department and Helen, a former sign language interpretater, moved to Berlin a few years ago. Always nature lovers, they have taken the time to landscape their backyard in such a way that it has now become a place where bunnies, butterflies, and all kinds of birds can call home. In fact, their Buttercup Road yard is now an official Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Foundation.

The Wileys created this haven because they deeply believe that wildlife must have places to feel safe from predators, people and inclement weather. Increasing development has taken away that space, so a backyard habitat provides a wonderful sanctuary to help wildlife to thrive, the couple says.

These fourth generation naturalists still own the Wildlife Foundation book Mike’s mother gave the couple at Christmas in 1974. Mike says his mom was environmentalist before the word was coined and was involved in the grassroots effort to bring recycling to Annapolis. Helen’s father was avid gardener and she has always loved nature. Together the couple encouraged their two daughters, and now six grandchildren, to respect and care for natural resources and wildlife.

Their Cape Saint Clair half-acre lot home in Annapolis had also been designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat that included 500 square foot of woods and wildflowers which became a refuge for box turtles, woodpeckers, and a screech owl. Their Berlin yard includes several bird houses, two bird baths, three bird feeders plus a suet cake area, a wet sandy area, a small rock pile, an above ground pond, a brush pile, and a row of Leyland Cyprus and a small rain garden of sorts. This yard is now a habitat that attracts a variety of birds, including hummingbirds, toads, rabbits, butterflies, and the occasional fox just to name a few.

When the Wiley’s received certification for their Annapolis home in the early 1990s it was certificate number 10,788. Their Berlin certification is 117,508. The NWF began the Wildlife Habitat certification program in 1973 and has certified more than 150,000 habitats nationwide. According to the NWF website the majority of these sites represent these home habitats, the organization has also certified more than thousands of schools and hundreds of businesses and other sites.

A wildlife sanctuary can be accomplished on a small apartment balcony or on a multi-acre farm, outside a business or at a community center. By providing food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young, and by incorporating sustainable gardening practices, these areas can restore lost habitat for wildlife.

The Wiley’s concern for our natural resources continues beyond the confines of their yard. Mike is a member of the Berlin Parks Commission and in charge of the recycling program for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Helen volunteers to run the church’s thrift shop, where donated items, recycled, renewed and reused.

The Wiley’s believe their habitat is a small way to improve the natural resources in our community. As Mike puts it, local governments don’t have extra money these days to put toward improving parks, so creating a haven for wildlife in their backyard is one small and inexpensive, but significant way to mitigate that loss.

For more information on how to create a certified wildlife habitat, go to the National Wildlife Federation website at

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